Non/Attachment: Mindful Parenting

When people think of mindfulness they sometimes mistakenly believe that sitting quietly is self-centered. Parents seem to really struggle with this concept. For certain, there are a limited amount of hours in a day and making space for a practice is extremely difficult. However, there is growing evidence that mindfulness actually helps people to be more engaged in relationships. If mindfulness can help us to be more effective in building and maintaining relationships this might encourage parents and even people in general positive justifications for taking a few minutes of silence to practice mindfulness. But how does a practice that teaches non-attachment lead to healthy attachment?

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Attachment Theory

Attachment is an emotional bond between people that is healthy, deep and enduring that can span across time and space. This strong emotional bond gives those who experience attachment a sense of security. By having someone we can depend on deeply then regardless of what happens, even tragic situations, we are grounded in a healthy relationship that we can look to for support. Through attachment we can develop “attunement” which is a neurological process that helps us understand and connect more deeply with others. For some people their parents are the first relationships that help them form attachment and attunement. For other people the relationship with their parents do not support healthy attachment which makes it more difficult to form healthy relationships with other people outside the family unit. At this point, some people like me say, “I didn’t get everything I needed (or think I needed) as a kid. Well, I am screwed.” But not all is lost! There is hope!

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Daniel J. Siegel writes in his book The Mindful Brain about COAL, the foundational mindfulness practices of Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. He writes,

COAL is exactly what parents who provide secure attachment to their children have as a mental stance toward them. We can propose that the interpersonal attunement of secure attachment between parent and child is paralleled by an intrapersonal form of attunement in mindful awareness. Both forms of attunement promote the capacity for intimate relationships, resilience and well-being (Siegel, 2007, pg. 26)

Mindfulness helps to the practitioner to develop those skills and the neurological framework similar to those that some people get from their parents. This gives me hope because through mindfulness I am developing a better relationship with myself and others. Through developing attunement in myself I find people more easily I can trust and can more easily identify people whom I can care about from a distance. Even during stressful times I am able to remain grounded in a way that was not possible before being a mindful practice. I have a better sense of overall well-being. My relationship with my children continues to develop in a more productive way.

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One more important point that the discussion of healthy attachment and the mindfulness practice raises is to the question that many parents ask ourselves, “Am I messing up my kids?” Ultimately we do the best we can with the information and skills that we have. The hopeful insight is that even if we make mistakes as parents, which we will, our children have the ability, through mindfulness practice to develop and strengthen those areas where we as parents fall short. With some dedication and responsible practice we can all heal ourselves a little more one breath at a time!

 

 

The Great Escape- Kids in the Woods

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“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighborhood.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Children do not have to live in a destructive family or neighborhood for stress to take its toll. With so many additives, seemingly so little time, and the general flow of most fast-paced lives children can get overwhelmed. Physical exercise can help relieve some of this built up anxiety. Being in nature, coupled with exercise, can support the nervous system in reclaiming a calmness it deserves.

My children are often resistant to hiking and going outside. They would much rather sit in front of a screen than to get sweaty. Although when we take the time to go outside they always end up enjoying it. Part of the fun is going beyond a mere walk. While we are in the woods we play games- tag, races, and most recently hide-and-go-seek.

The kids will run up a mountain or hill that would usually cause great complaining if we were simply walking. Going into the woods is exciting, not only for the kids, but for the parents! We get to slow down (even if we are running sometimes). We talk, sometimes we just listen to the sounds around us.

Most kids love being in nature even if they initially resist it. It is unfortunate but sometimes we have to teach children how to enjoy being in nature. My son is worried about germs and one of the first times we went on a hike I made him get his hands dirty. Although the fear of germs has not completely subsided he now willingly grabs sticks, throws rocks, and climbs boulders.

Nature has so much to offer! Climbing trees, throwing sticks, and finding new wonders can be just a small part of the overall experience and fun of being outside. Being outside can build a sense of confidence unlike any indoor activity.

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Sometimes it is alright to make a mountain out of a molehill!

          So, explore ways in which you can incorporate nature into your family routine. It will not only give needed exercise, it can support bonding, relaxation, and a sense of confidence so needed in the developmental process of young people.